Shimano disc brakes are excellent, but between Deore and XT the performance is extremely similar it is just the price and aesthetics that change. Yes, the XT may be more progressive than the Deore but I’ve found that the final stopping power of either is very similar in the real world once you add in some mud, grit and water.
Enter the four-pot Shimano Zee disc brake.
Review of Shimano Zee Disc Brakes
If it’s raw stopping power you’re looking for then the Zee will not let you down. It isn’t all muscle and no finesse though, the Zee’s modular breaking is similar to the SRAM Guide in feel albeit a little less refined.
A slight touch on the Zee’s well-built lever will slow you slightly, a tug will give you a jolt and a firm squeeze will stop you so fast you’ll wonder if you’ve damaged the earth’s rotation – that is provided you have new pads in the calipers.
But it isn’t all downhill for the Zee (well it is kind of) as the weight makes it only slightly heavier than Shimano’s trail offerings. So if you’re a rider who’s on the larger side of the scale or you love to get really rowdy and need something to reign you in then the Zee is a brilliant choice of brakes.
Historically I’ve found Shimano brakes to be very reliable, but sadly the same can’t be said of the Zee. After around 9 months of my bike they’ve chewed through nearly a dozen pairs of pads, needed bleeding three times and constantly feel soft and spongy. Luckily, bleeding is a straight forward job but it’s a pain in the ass all the same.
If you’re planning a visit to the Alps or BikePark Wales or anywhere else you know you’ll be on the brakes a lot then finned brake pads work to keep the overall temp low – minimum risk of burning your legs on the rotors! Always take extra pads though – I found that a full days uplift at BikePark Wales requires at least two pairs of pads, and I don’t tend to use my brakes where I don’t have to.
Overall opinion of the Shimano Zees
While I’d like to recommend the Zee, I won’t. They aren’t a bad brake, but they are less refined and adjustable than the SRAM Guides. The four piston construction is robust and surprisingly light, but they chew through pads more than anything I’ve ever seen – that’s true of organic, kevlar and stintered pads.
If you’re umming and aahing between these and the XTs then I’d recommend these for pure power, but you can buy better Guides and even Hope brakes for just a little bit more… that’s always worth considering. If you have your heart set on Zees then go ahead and buy them – they don’t brake as such, they just require lots of pads and lots of bleeding which really isn’t the end of the world.